Six hundred forty growing-finishing pigs (initial BW = 23.2 ± 4.8 kg) were used in a 12-wk study (final BW = 95.5 ± 10.2 kg) to quantify the effects of group size (10, 20, 40, and 80 pigs/pen) on performance, tail biting, and use of widely distributed feed resources. One single-space wet/dry feeder was provided for every 10 pigs, and floor allowance was 0.76 m 2/pig in all treatment groups. Weight gain and feed intake were measured every 2 wk. At weighing, a tail-biting injury score was given to each pig. Blood samples were collected and analyzed for neutrophil: lymphocyte ratio before regrouping at the beginning of the experiment, 24 to 48 h after regrouping, and on the last day of each trial. The use of feeders by individual pigs was assessed by behavioral observations. Average daily gain for the entire 12-wk trial did not differ among group sizes (861, 873, 854, and 845 g/d for groups of 10, 20, 40, and 80, respectively; P > 0.10). During the first 2 wk, ADG was lower for pigs in groups of 40 (554 g/d) than pigs in groups of 10 (632 g/d; P < 0.05), but not pigs in groups of 20 or 80 (602 and 605 g/d, respectively). Average daily feed intake, feed efficiency, and variability in final BW within a pen also did not differ among group sizes. Tail-biting injury scores increased throughout the study, but did not differ among group sizes. Similar proportions of pigs were removed from the trial for health reasons, primarily due to tail biting, in all treatments. Individual pigs in each group size ate from most, if not all, of the feeders in the pen. There was no evidence of spatial subgrouping within the larger groups. The results suggest that housing growing-finishing pigs in groups of up to 80 pigs is not detrimental to productivity and health if space allowance is adequate and feed resources are evenly distributed.
- Group Size